The Family Photos series has been going on for a few years, using photos from both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family. Sometimes I’m working on these images exclusively for a while, then maybe I’ll come back to them after doing something else, and if I find new ones, that can stimulate additional work. Usually, each series begins with a fairly straightforward drawing or painting of the subject, then progresses through a number of different versions, changing the scale, the media and the approach to the picture. Primarily, they have been photos of the immediately preceding generations, my parents and grandparents. The aura of old-fashionedness enables me to find an objective distance from the images, though there is obviously an emotional link as well that gives them a subjective element. I choose them for visual qualities, not for sentimental reasons. Sometimes those things are happily combined, as in Deckchair (below): the couple are my maternal grandparents. Occasionally I have no idea who the people are, I think there is a tiny view of my father in Entertaining the Dog (behind the main figure), but the other people are a mystery. It’s just a great, and slightly strange, photograph. My father and his brothers are three of the boys on donkeys,so I lost the fourth figure in the translation of photo to painting.These paintings are from early in the series. There will be newer ones in a subsequent post.
I have a huge archive of found photos, collected for purely visual interest or for my interest in the content, and also for teaching purposes, so there is reference material on any subject students might choose. The majority are clippings and tear sheets from newspapers and magazines, but there are also photos taken by me, friends or family members, and a range of postcards – views, artwork and old pictures.
The brown paper drawings are what I call thinking out loud – that is, thinking on to paper. Initially I chose favourite images from my collection, with written comments and associations; gradually themes began to emerge. The drawings are charcoal, acrylic wash and chalk on brown paper, each approx. 22x28in (56x71cm).
There are four pictures in this series, which was the first work relating to my trip to Canada last September to watch bears in the wild. From the first time I read about the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, I felt a real desire to go there, although I’m not a great traveller and certainly not an outdoor adventurer. I did not go with the intention of painting bears, in any form. It took me a long time to process what was actually a fairly brief experience — just a few days – but gradually I started wanting to deal with it visually and began work on the paintings. The title word – significance – is about an attempt to synthesize the experience and feelings about the whole trip, including the magic of being so close to bears in the wild – grizzlies, black bears and the lovely white spirit bear. Quite how one magazine article spurred me to make such a mighty leap of geography and culture is something I’m still working on, in my head and on paper. These are watercolour crayon and acrylic paintings, the dimensions of each are 23x13in (59x33cm). See also Bears in the Woods post below.